Call for black blood and organ donors to ‘Be There’ for their community

6 October 2015

This Black History Month NHS Blood and Transplant is urging black people to register as blood, organ and stem cell donors and “Be There” for people from their community who need life saving or life enhancing blood transfusions, stem cell transplants and organ transplants.  

Black people are currently under represented as blood donors, with less than one percent* of active blood donors coming from Black African, Black Caribbean or mixed race communities. There are currently more people living with Sickle Cell Disease than there are active black and mixed race donors.

There are also fewer black organ donors as last year only 20** out of the 1,282 deceased donors in the UK were from the black community. In contrast there are currently around 600 black people waiting for an organ transplant with the vast majority of those in need of a kidney transplant.

Ethnicity can often play an important part in blood transfusions, stem cell transplants and organ transplants. Black donors are more likely to have rare blood and tissue types and black patients are more likely to require these rare types so it is essential that we have more black blood, organ and stem cell donors.

Additionally black people are more likely to need an organ transplant than people from white communities as they are more susceptible to illnesses such as hypertension, diabetes and certain forms of hepatitis, all of which may result in organ failure and the need for a lifesaving transplant.

Kidneys are allocated according to many factors, with blood and tissue type amongst the most important. Matching is likely to be closer when the ethnicity of the donor and the recipient are closer. As only a small percentage of deceased donors are from black backgrounds, this can delay a suitably matched kidney being found and black people will often wait a year longer for a kidney transplant than people from white backgrounds.

Sickle Cell Disease is a genetically inherited blood disorder in which the oxygen carrying the red blood cells are more likely to alter their shape and cause problems such as bone pain. It is most common in the black community. Patients with this condition often require regular blood transfusions. Blood transfusions from donors with a similar ethnic background give the best match and outcomes in the long term.

Some blood types are more common in black and mixed race communities whilst some rare types are only found within these communities.

Stem cell donation can help save the lives of people suffering from leukaemia and sickle cell disease as well as other diseases of the immune system.  Around 70 percent of patients have to rely on a matched volunteer donor, identified through the British Bone Marrow Registry. People from black backgrounds are less likely to find a match than White patients.

Ian Trenholm, Chief Executive at NHS Blood and Transplant said:

“We really do need more black blood, organ and stem cell donors to help support black patients. Many people think that blood is only needed in an accident or emergency situation but people with Sickle Cell Disease often need blood transfusions on a regular basis just to stay alive.

“Blood donations can also be used before, during and after childbirth and for surgical procedures such as life saving transplants.

“In addition, if you require an organ or stem cell transplant you are far less likely to find a match if you are from black or mixed race community, simply due to the lack of black donors on the registers.

“We’re incredibly grateful to those who already donate blood, who have joined the Organ Donor or stem cell registers but it is vital that we encourage more black people to sign up and talk to their family and friends about their decision.  

“If you’ve not thought about it before, then why not do so this Black History Month. We need a new generation of life savers from the black communities.” 

During the month long campaign, NHS Blood and Transplant has a number of exciting initiatives to raise awareness and boost donor numbers.

NHS Blood and Transplant will be working with community and faith groups such as the ACLT and a social media campaign will run throughout the month.

Additionally NHS Blood and Transplant will be undertaking radio partnerships with Capital Xtra, New Style Radio, Premier Gospel and Colourful FM to promote the need for black blood donors.


  • For further information or to arrange case study or spokesperson interviews please contact Sarah Whyte -  or 01923 367618.
  • For out of hours enquiries call: 0117 969 2444

Notes for editors

*Active blood donor refers to people who have donated blood in the last year. 

Ethnic group

Number of donors

Percentage of active donors %




Black- African



Black- Caribbean



Mixed W+B African



Mixed W+B Caribbean



Other Black background




**Statistics from the Organ Donation and Transplantation Activity Report 2014/15 -

  • NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) is a joint England and Wales Special Health Authority. Its remit includes the provision of a reliable, efficient supply of blood and associated services to the NHS in England and North Wales. It is also the organ donor organisation for the UK and is responsible for matching and allocating donated organs
  • Donors can search for sessions, change their contact details, book appointments and change/cancel their appointments in real time on
  • There are apps available for Android, Windows and Apple Smartphone and tablet devices which enable donors to search for sessions based on your location, book and manage appointments.
  • NHSBT’s donor line - 0300 123 23 23 -is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week with all calls charged at the standard local rate, even from mobile phones
  • NHSBT collects 1.8 million units of blood each year from over 23,000 blood donation sessions in more than 3,000 venues
  • A unit of blood is measured as 470mls (or just under a pint)
  • There are four main blood groups – O, A, B and AB. Group O is the most common and therefore the most in demand. Rarer blood groups include B+, Ro and RoR which are more common and more in-demand among black communities.
  • A regular supply of blood is vital – red cells last 35 days and platelets only 7days
  • Female whole blood donors can give blood every 16 weeks, while male blood donors must wait 12 weeks between donations. Platelets can be donated every 2 weeks.
  • To join the British Bone Marrow Registry, you must be a blood donor aged between 18 and 49. When you go to give blood, you will provide an extra sample during your donation which will be typed and tested so you can join the BBMR.
  • The British Bone Marrow Registry is part of an aligned UK stem cell registry along with Anthony Nolan and the Welsh Bone Marrow Donor Registry – if anyone has ever joined either of these, they do not need to join the BBMR as details are shared among the three registries.
  • For more info see
  • 21.1 million people in the UK have already signed onto the NHS Organ Donor Register.  These people have joined the Register to record their decision to donate organs and/or tissue after their death for transplantation. This information is used by authorised medical staff to establish whether a person wanted to donate. A newly build ODR has just been launched in the UK. This also gives registrants the option to register a decision not to donate their organs or to nominate others to make the decision for them after their death.
  • It’s simple to join the ODR by:
    - going to
    - ringing 0300 123 23 23
  • Anyone can register on the ODR. Age isn’t a barrier to being an organ or tissue donor and neither are most medical conditions. People in their 70s and 80s have become donors and saved many lives.
  • One donor can save or transform up to 9 lives and many more can be helped through the donation of tissues.